|Courtesy of Designs by Birgit|
In a recent special session of the Texas legislature Senate Bill 5 came up for a vote on June 25, the last day of the session. Sen. Wendy Davis (D) took the day to give an 11 hour filibuster to stop voting on the bill. Voting took place at the last second, unfortunately it was ruled to have taken place just past midnight on June 26. So the vote to pass the bill was declared null. Pro-lifers took the phones and Gov. Perry called for a second special session to begin on July 1. The bill, commonly referred to now as the "abortion bill" will be refiled for this second special session along with other bills that still needed to be discussed, etc. The bill will be filed under a new number (I believe House Bill 2, initially) when the new session starts.
So now we're all up to speed.
The question is, though, what does the bill say?
On the Pro-abortion side, people are saying that this bill will close all abortion facilities in the state of Texas. They claim that this bill is bad for women, takes away their right to abortion and forces women to have babies they do not want.
On the Pro-life side, people are saying that this bill will not close abortion clinics. They claim that the bill is good for women and all who care about the safety and health of women should be in favor of this bill.
So who is right? Why the discrepancy in perspective on this bill? What does the bill actually SAY?
You can read the complete text of Senate Bill 5 (the one that caused all the ruckus this past Tuesday) here. Remember the bill will get a new number in the new session and there is always the chance of language being changed, edited, amended, etc. during committee hearings. For simplicity sake I will refer to the bill as SB5
|My son, Zachary, |
born at 22 weeks.
While this isn't entirely what the pro-life side would like to see, it is a step in the right direction. A small step.
The second part of SB5 is the requirements for physicians who perform abortions. This is the aspect of the bill, I believe, that is raising the alarm for the pro-choice side. But why?
SECTION 2. Subchapter A, Chapter 171, Health and Safety Code, is amended by adding Section 171.0031 to read as follows:
Sec. 171.0031. REQUIREMENTS OF PHYSICIAN; OFFENSE. (a) A physician performing or inducing an abortion:
(1) must, on the date the abortion is performed, have active admitting privileges at a hospital that:
(A) is located not further than 30 miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced; and
(B) provides obstetrical or gynecological health care services; and
(2) shall provide the pregnant woman with:
(A) a telephone number by which the pregnant woman may reach the physician, or other health care personnel employed by the physician or by the facility at which the abortion was performed with access to the woman's relevant medical records, 24 hours a day to request assistance for any complications that arise from the performance of the abortion or ask health-related questions regarding the abortion; and
(B) the name and telephone number of the nearest hospital to the home of the pregnant woman at which an emergency arising from the abortion would be treated.
(b) A physician who violates Subsection (a) commits an offense. An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine only, not to exceed $4,000. (Senate Bill 5, 2013)
So basically, the physician must be able to go to a local hospital with the patient having the abortion if an emergency arises. This helps doctors at the hospital to better understand the situation (because the abortionist is right there) so they know how to help the woman in distress. The way things are now, if faced with an emergency, the woman goes to a hospital and the doctors have to guess at what may have happened in order to properly treat her. I don't think it is an unreasonable requirement for abortionists. It's a safety measure for the patients.
Secondly the above part of SB5 asks that physicians performing abortions provide a phone number and/or other contact information to the patient in the event that she experiences complications after she has left the facility. Again, I think this is a very reasonable stipulation.
Section 171.063 of the bill reiterates some of the above quoted passage. It also stipulates that the person performing the abortion, dispensing or selling drugs for an abortion, and so forth, be a physician. This is a medical procedure. I don't know about you, but I don't want to undergo any sort of medical procedure without being under the care of a properly licensed, medical physician. Why should abortion be any different?
To quote further from section 171.063:
(d) The physician who gives, sells, dispenses, administers, provides, or prescribes the abortion-inducing drug, or the physician's agent, must schedule a follow-up visit for the woman to occur not more than 14 days after the administration or use of the drug. At the follow-up visit, the physician must:
(1) confirm that the pregnancy is completely terminated; and
(2) assess the degree of bleeding.
(e) The physician who gives, sells, dispenses, administers, provides, or prescribes the abortion-inducing drug, or the physician's agent, shall make a reasonable effort to ensure that the woman returns for the scheduled follow-up visit under Subsection (d). The physician or the physician's agent shall document a brief description of any effort made to comply with this subsection, including the date, time, and name of the person making the effort, in the woman's medical record.(f) If a physician gives, sells, dispenses, administers, provides, or prescribes an abortion-inducing drug to a pregnant woman for the purpose of inducing an abortion as authorized by this section and the physician knows that the woman experiences a serious adverse event, as defined by the MedWatch Reporting System, during or after the administration or use of the drug, the physician shall report the event to the United States Food and Drug Administration through the MedWatch Reporting System not later than the third day after the date the physician learns that the event occurred. (Senate Bill 5, 2013)
Basically a follow-up visit is required and any adverse effects must be reported (as is true with any medical procedure). Again, why is this a problem?
One myth I've seen is that all these requirements will cause abortion clinics to close immediately. This is not true. Under Section 171.064, Section 4:
(a) The rules must contain minimum standards to protect the health and safety of a patient of an abortion facility and must contain provisions requiring compliance with the requirements of Subchapter B, Chapter 171. On and after September 1, 2014, the minimum standards for an abortion facility must be equivalent to the minimum standards adopted under Section 243.010 for ambulatory surgical centers. (Senate Bill 5, 2013)
Abortion clinics are being given a little more than year to come into full compliance with this law. If the bill passes this July, we're looking at about 14 months before these clinics need to be in full compliance by September 1, 2014. Will these provisions close some abortion clinics? Probably yes. Will it close all? Most likely not. Personally, if abortion is going to be available to women, it needs to be as safe as possible for women. These requirements put the regulations of abortion clinics in lines with the "minimum standards adopted ... for ambulatory surgical centers."
Just as with any medical procedure and any medical center, abortion clinics need to be held to the same standards. Otherwise, patient health is put at risk. As pro-choice people, don't you want women to be safe and in the best medical situation possible? That is the real point of this bill.
I will admit, that as a pro-life person I would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned and abortion made illegal in this country. This bill is far from perfect from a pro-life perspective, but it is a step in at least making abortion safer for the women who feel like it is their only option.
As a Kentuckian, why am I bothering to get into the details of this bill?? This bill could have a massive effect all across the country. If Texas passes this (and they are expected to) then we can see other states following suit. But they can only be successful if the bill is completely understood. This bill is about making abortion safer for women, not about prohibiting abortion out right.
In a world where "agreeing to disagree" is all the rage, certainly those on both the pro-choice side and the pro-life side of the abortion debate can agree that making abortion conditions safe for women is important. We may disagree on the necessity of abortion or whether or not it should be legal or illegal, but I see no reason why we can't agree that as long as it is available, women should be safe and not have to fear for their lives when they enter an abortion clinic.
For more about this topic and to see how you can get involved in supporting women in Texas, I recommend the post "Protect Babies and Women - Stand with Texas" by Designs by Birgit. She summarizes the bill and the reasoning behind it very succinctly and provides many ways to help and show your support.
I hope that pro-choice women can join with us in passage of this bill, recognizing that this is a way to provide safe conditions in line with all other medical facilities in the state of Texas for the women of Texas. Because women deserve to be cared for in the best possible way.
Note: I apologize if there is any weird formatting in the quoted texts. It was a long process trying to copy and paste from a legislative document, into a separate document, and reformat it to get proper display on this page. Thank you for understanding.